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When Nobel winners get the news while sleeping!


Stockholm, Dec 12: Some Nobel laureates are fast asleep in the dead of the night when they get calls from the Nobel Committee about their selection, a top official of such a committee said.

After the selection is made on a Tuesday in the middle of October, it is the custom of the Nobel Committee to inform the winners over the phone.


"Sometimes, the laureates, mostly those who are based in the US, are fast asleep in the middle of the night when they get calls. At other times, husbands or wives have to be informed about their spouses' achievements," Per Delsing, Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics, said.

Incidentally, this year's Nobel winner for Physics Japanese-born American Shuji Nakamura was asleep at his home in California when he got a call from the Nobel Committee at 2 AM on October 7.

"I was at my home but was sleeping. And immediately there were continuous calls from journalists. So, there was no time for sleep or rest," he said in an interview.

There have been some more instances like this before, according to Delsing. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is responsible for the selection of Nobel Laureates in Physics.

The Academy appoints a working body, the Nobel Committee for Physics, which screens the nominations and presents a proposal for final candidates. The committee consists of five ordinary members, one secretary and two joint members.

The selection procedure for Physics and Chemistry is same while that for Literature, Peace, Medicine and Economics is slightly different.

Delsing, a professor of physics at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, says the procedure to select a Nobel laureate in the field actually takes a whole year.

"Already in October this year, we had sent requests for nominations for next year's Nobel prizes. Every year, we sent out several thousands of requests to nominators around the world and we get several hundred nominations back. And these should reach us by January 31," he said.

The confidential forms are sent to around 3,000 people - selected professors at universities around the world, Nobel Laureates in Physics and Chemistry, and members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, among others.

"And it is really based on those nominations that we select the winner. One needs to be nominated to get the award. All nominations are made by individuals," Delsing said.

The nominators are asked not to discuss the nominations with others just because the committee wants to have individual nominations.

"We don't want campaign for any person. And from these nominations we pick out certain areas where we need to learn more and then we send out requests for investigations to certain number of experts around the world," he said.

The Nobel Committee then puts together a report with recommendations to be submitted to the Academy. The report is signed by all members of the committee. In September, the committee submits its recommendations on the final candidates to the members of the Academy.

The report is discussed at two meetings of the Physics Class of the Academy. Finally, the winner is announced.

According to Delsing, the character of a person has not been a problem in his selection as a Nobel winner.

"Our task is to find a person who has done a great invention or a great discovery for the benefit of mankind," he said.

The Committee does not announce the names of the nominees, either to the media or to the candidates themselves, he said, adding that information in the Nobel Committee's nomination database is not made public until after 50 years.


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